Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

In Israel-Hamas clash, Iran casts a shadow

By Frida Ghitis, Special to CNN
updated 9:42 AM EST, Thu November 22, 2012
A boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, on Monday, November 26. A boy stands in the rubble of a destroyed shop in Beit Lahia, in northern Gaza, on Monday, November 26.
HIDE CAPTION
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Warning: Graphic image (single)
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
Israel-Gaza conflict
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Frida Ghitis: In the latest Israel-Hamas conflict, Iran is a key player
  • Ghitis: Iran's nuclear program serves as powerful psychological backdrop
  • She says Israelis are worried since Tehran has long armed Israel's enemies
  • Ghitis: The fighting has much larger geopolitical implications for the Middle East

Editor's note: Frida Ghitis is a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review. A former CNN producer and correspondent, she is the author of "The End of Revolution: A Changing World in the Age of Live Television." Follow her on Twitter: @FridaGColumns.

(CNN) -- In the latest round of fighting between Israelis and the Palestinian militants of Hamas in Gaza, one key player looms like an ominous, lengthening shadow: Iran.

Never far from sight or mind, the standoff between Iran and the West over Iran's nuclear program serves as the backdrop to the fighting. It frames Israeli tactics and strategy and influences the international diplomatic response. Iran and its nuclear program also play a powerful psychological role, as observers and participants ponder the parallels between the latest Israel-Hamas conflict and a possible war in which Iran would stand against the U.S. or Israel, and perhaps other NATO allies.

Cease-fire reached in Gaza conflict

Little wonder then that Israel has received strong support from U.S. President Barack Obama -- who has repeatedly stated, "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself from missiles raining on people's homes" -- as well as from nations including the UK, Germany, Canada, Australia, the Netherlands and others.

Frida Ghitis
Frida Ghitis

When Israelis see a rocket launched from Gaza, the thought that one day that rocket could carry nuclear materials burns hot in their mind.

Opinion: Israel, engage Abbas now

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



And when they see their Iron Dome defensive missile shield -- the extraordinarily successful new technology -- shoot down a missile, it gives them, and perhaps NATO, a sense of reassurance about how a clash with Iran might unfold.

Tehran has long armed Israel's most determined enemies. Israelis worry that Iran could hand nuclear materials to groups committed to Israel's destruction, a prospect many see as more realistic than a direct nuclear attack from Iran.

Israel's attacks in Gaza are aimed at stopping the rockets and mortar attacks that have gone on for years and have intensified greatly in recent weeks. Israel complained to the U.N. But Israel also wanted to deplete a Hamas arsenal it sees as part of Iran's preparations in case of war with Israel.

Israeli officials say the missiles launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad into Israel's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, are Iran's rockets, which Israelis believe were shipped by Iran in separate pieces like a doomsday Ikea package. They were sent by sea to Sudan and then moved through Egypt and into tunnels to Gaza, where they were assembled for firing at Israel with the help of Iranian operatives on the ground in Gaza. Iran and Sudan have denied that such a smuggling operation exists.

Witness describes Tel Aviv bomb blast
Rubin: Israel has an enemy in Gaza
Oren: Hamas 'celebrating' bus bombing

Iran has threatened to unleash attacks against Israel and "wipe it off the face of the Earth," in case of a hit on its nuclear installations. Those attacks could come from Gaza and from Iran's Lebanese ally, Hezbollah.

Perhaps not coincidentally, in late October Israeli fighter jets are believed to have bombed an arms factory in Sudan. The Times of London said the facility made missiles for Hamas and was operated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Some analysts have speculated that the Israeli attacks against Gaza constitute the second part of the Sudan operation, in which Israel set out to destroy Iran's most dangerous weapons arrayed in Gaza just meters from Israeli civilian populations and being launched with increasing brazenness by Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Opinion: How this could be the last Gaza war

The latest fighting brings to the forefront one of the pivotal questions posed by the revolutions that swept across the Arab Middle East in the past two years: Where would key Arab and Muslim players stand in case of a confrontation between Iran and the West, particularly if Israel and the Palestinians became one of the epicenters of fighting?

European governments that defended Israel's right to fight back against rocket attacks also urged restraint, fearing an unraveling of a highly unstable Middle East, where alliances are shifting and agendas are difficult to ascertain. One of the great uncertainties of the latest conflict has been how Arab countries where the political ground has shifted -- particularly Egypt -- would react.

So far, it appears that the rhetoric has changed somewhat. Arab leaders and their populations support the Palestinians, but they have other priorities at home.

In case of a war with Iran, however, specifically one involving Israel, what would Turkey, a NATO member but withering critic of Israel, do? What could the West expect from Egypt, with its president's Muslim Brotherhood ties? What about Qatar, a strong backer of Hamas but an important U.S. friend in the region?

The political transformations brought by the Arab uprisings also shattered some of Hamas' alliances, particularly the one with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Iran's best friend and until recently Hamas' own warmly hospitable host. Damascus provided Hamas' home away from home, the base of its exiled politburo leaders.

When the carnage in Syria spun out of control, Hamas broke with al-Assad and its leaders left, but the group maintained its links with Tehran.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya traveled to Iran earlier this year, reaffirming ties with the Islamic Republic.

And although Hamas and Iran stand on opposite sides of Islam's Sunni-Shia divide, they share fundamental goals. Tehran's leaders unambiguously call for an end to Israel. Hamas has even more explicit goals on the issue. Its charter, which has never been revoked or amended, opposes any negotiations with Israel and declares "Israel will exist ... until Islam will obliterate it." The charter also quotes an ancient Islamic scripture about the promise of redemption, saying it will come after "killing the Jews."

While Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has made some conciliatory statements, suggesting a temporary accommodation with Israel might be possible, he has announced plans to retire, and hardliners led by Haniya are gaining the upper hand in a power struggle within Hamas.

It's not much of a stretch to say Hamas and Iran share the same objectives regarding Israel and the desirability of a future without it.

Opinion: Israel, face new reality

The fighting between Israel and Gaza falls tragically on the people who live there. But, like much that goes on in the Middle East, it has much larger geopolitical implications, casting shadows across the world and buffeted by forces beyond the immediate site of the fighting.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Frida Ghitis.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:37 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
updated 2:03 PM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
updated 7:45 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
updated 3:04 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
updated 8:32 PM EDT, Sun October 26, 2014
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
updated 7:19 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
updated 8:12 AM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
updated 5:01 PM EDT, Wed October 22, 2014
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
updated 12:19 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
updated 6:35 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Swedes will find sitting on the fence to be increasingly uncomfortable with Putin as next door neighbor, writes Gary Schmitt
updated 12:32 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
The Ottawa shooting pre-empted Malala's appearances in Canada, but her message to young people needs to be spread, writes Frida Ghitis
updated 9:48 PM EDT, Sat October 25, 2014
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
updated 6:08 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
updated 5:54 PM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
updated 12:21 PM EDT, Fri October 24, 2014
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
updated 10:14 AM EDT, Thu October 23, 2014
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
updated 12:00 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
updated 7:35 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
updated 9:12 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT